Re: What do you guys think of STCs new definition for technicalwriter?

Subject: Re: What do you guys think of STCs new definition for technicalwriter?
From: "Edwin Skau" <eddy -dot- skau -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2008 17:55:30 +0530

I'm sorry for the delay in responding.

A knowledge product is essentially a product (text, speech, video, webcast,
podcast, CBT, WBT, pamphlet, brochure, diagram, etc.) that delivers
knowledge or information, or addresses the need to know.

The preparation of any of the items mentioned within parantheses above
essentially involves productizing knowledge.

Lauren, which part of "knowledge product" begins to mean nonsense? Is that
your personal definition or does the industry recognize that? Well you may
want to tell Bill Horton that he uses nonsense when talking about

As technical writers, we're supposed to research terms and first try to
figure out how they make sense before slamming them for not fitting into our
neat little traditional repository of hackneyed definitions.

The terms "technical writer" or "technical communicator" are umbrella terms
that are used to include a wide variety of jobs that involve tasks, which do
not fall under the strict definitions of either writing or communicating. To
create separate, individual definitions for each of these profiles would be
to fragment the identity of our collective profession in the industry. To
include all of them in one definition using simple, plain, clean, words
would make that definition verbose and dilute.

The way language deals with ideas that combine multiple ideas or conditions,
is to coin a representative word or phrase that unifies all of them, usually
by defining their purpose. The words learning, communication, product,
information , etc all do that. Sometimes a word originates with a very fixed
and restricted meaning, and evolves to denote what it connoted along the
way. "Knowledge product" ably denotes the result of taking a body of
knowledge and turning it into a product.

Why is a word or phrase detestable? Is it because of the spelling, the
sound, or what it seems to define? What then in that person's opinion does
it seem to define, and what does that person find detestable about that?

The reason the STC has been grappling with the definition is because it pays
too much heed to the folks who have a tendency to develop hostile
relationships with words. Therefore, the obsession with "assure" and
"ensure" in the definition below, but not a word about how technical
communication is limited to "technical goods".

Develop and design instructional and informational tools needed to assure
safe, easy, proper and complete use of technical goods. Combines multi-media
knowledge and strong communication skills with technical expertise to
educate across the entire spectrum of users'
abilities, technical experience, and visual and auditory capabilities."

Incidentally, folks who found "knowledge product" ambiguous, unable to
understand, and detestable seem to be fine with "instructional and
informational tools" and "technical goods." So is technical communication
limited to "technical goods," whatever that means?

What if the information is unsafe, difficult, improper, and partial? Does it
have to satisfy all those conditions or only one, or at least three?

We're also happy to stop at multi-media knowledge, communication skills, and
technical expertise and do not seem to consider knowledge of the business
domain as important. Well, that fits just perfectly in with the perception a
lot of folks have about us being wordsmiths and font fondlers (who, however,
have trouble with words like knowledge product).

And how does one educate across visual and auditory capabilities?


What I haven't seen in this thread is:
What is the purpose for this definition (or at least a few primary uses)?
Who is this definition intended for? What impact this is going to have on
the field, or the folks identified by this definition?

These are considerations I would expect technical writers to have covered
before setting out to string words together.

But then we're not writing to promote the safe, easy, complete use of
technical goods in this case are we?


On Thu, Jun 5, 2008 at 1:39 AM, Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net> wrote:

> I think the point here is that when "knowledge" and "product" are combined,
> the resulting phrase is nonsense. So, Edwin, are you saying that
> "knowledge
> product" means "nonsense"?

Is that what it means? I'd like to see your reference.

> I think that the discussion of the definitions of terms and phrases used in
> technical communication is relevant to technical writing and not OT. But
> continually dodging answering the question "What is a 'knowledge product'?"
> while still using the phrase (for over a week) in discussions is really
> lame.

I respect Dan's intelligence enough to know that he could answer that
question himself, to everybody's satisfaction. So Dan was just yanking my

> If the phrase cannot be defined by the person who introduced (or at least
> continues to re-introduce) it on this forum, then the phrase is not
> relevant
> to technical writing. So, for now, the phrase "knowledge product" is
> nonsense.
> Lauren

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Re: What do you guys think of STCs new definition for technicalwriter?: From: Edwin Skau

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